House Republicans Released Their Interior-EPA Appropriations Bill. It’s Even Worse than We Expected
Congress must reject these poison pill riders and non-negotiable provisions that will harm communities and the environment.
Fresh off holding the American public hostage over raising the nation’s debt limit, extremist House Republicans have once again sunk to another low. They recently released their Interior-Environment appropriations bill filled with draconian budget cuts and poison pill riders that take a hatchet to critical environmental protections as well as job-creating investments that help fight climate change and environmental injustice.
This couldn’t come at a worse time. Climate change is fueling devastating storms, floods, and heat waves across large parts of the country while coastal communities anxiously await a hurricane season that has yet to reach its peak. Instead of doubling down on critical investments to protect communities, lower emissions, safeguard biodiversity, and clean up pollution, House Republicans have done the opposite. Their bill would:
1. Eliminate Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds designated to help marginalized and disadvantaged populations fight climate change in their communities.
House Republicans have zeroed in on eliminating $7.8 billion in funding for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This grant program established by the IRA deploys zero-emissions technologies in historically marginalized communities to help facilitate their transition to clean energy, fight climate change, and create new green jobs. Additionally, the bill would cut $1.4 billion in IRA grants specifically meant to address environmental health impacts in underserved communities that predominately include communities of color and those of low-income.
2. Hamper the ability of federal agencies to conduct efficient and thorough environmental reviews.
In one of the most hypocritical antics yet, House Republicans have eliminated funding provided under the IRA to speed up permitting processes for new energy projects. For years, Republicans have used permitting timelines to argue for the elimination of environmental protections. Repeatedly, they complain about how long it takes to permit a project while simultaneously starving the very agencies in charge of performing these reviews. The bill shows that the true Republican intent in permitting reforms is not to speed up projects, but to gut environmental protections for the sake of corporate profits.
3. Defund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to a historic low while jeopardizing clean air and clean water.
This bill cuts EPA funding to by $4 billion from FY2023 levels, a 39% cut over current funding levels. It starves the agency meant to protect our health from polluting industries to the lowest levels since 1991. It slashes all environmental justice funding from the budget and prevents regulations to protect clean water and clean air, like President Biden’s Waters of the U.S. Rule and ‘Good Neighbor Rule,’ from going into effect. It’s a wish list for polluting industries that have long called for eliminating environmental protections that they deem ‘burdensome’ to their profits. At a time when too many communities are still breathing toxic air and drinking contaminated water, we cannot afford to cut enforcement of the very regulations that safeguard the environment we depend on. While these cuts are a boon to polluting industries, our families will continue to pay the price.
4. Eliminate endangered species protections and hasten the biodiversity crisis.
Despite the overwhelming public support for addressing the biodiversity crisis and protecting species threatened with extinction, the bill would undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by allowing Congress to determine which species warrant protection — putting politics above science in these decisions. It would codify some of the worst aspects of the Trump administration’s ESA attacks, while prohibiting the implementation of protections for the sage grouse, lesser prairie chicken, gray wolf, and northern long-eared bats. With scientists predicting that approximately 40% of species could face extinction by the end of this century, we can’t afford to limit our most vital tools for preventing extinction and preserving the biodiversity we all depend on.
5. Block clean energy development while opening more public lands and waters to dirty fossil fuel and mining projects.
With our clean energy transition already underway, House Republicans remain tethered to dirty energy sources. At a time when we should accelerate that transition, this bill does the opposite. It mandates oil and gas lease sales in the Western Gulf of Mexico and Alaska and requires the Interior Department to conduct quarterly onshore oil and gaslease sales, deepening our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. Troublingly enough, it removes agency authority to determine the amount of lease sales, and mandates lease sales in vulnerable places in perpetuity. Mining companies also stand to benefit from House Republican antics. Hardrock mining is already one of the most toxic industries in the country, but under this bill, the industry will once again get a free pass to pollute some of our most iconic public lands. Special places like the Boundary Waters area in Northern Minnesota would have their mineral withdrawals revoked, opening them up to mining claims and exploits. The 1872 Hardrock Mining Law, already woefully inadequate for governing and regulating domestic mining operations, would be amended to allow mining companies to dispose of mine waste on public lands that do not have an existing mineral claim. It’s clear that under House Republicans, polluting industries will continue to profit while vulnerable communities pay the price.
6. Limit the public’s right to timely settlements from federal agencies.
Settlement agreements and consent decrees play a critical role in holding federal agencies accountable to its mandates to set and enforce health and safety standards. This polluter industry wish list also includes a rider re-instating a Trump era rule that tips the scales in favor of polluting industries by making it harder for the Interior Department to timely settle cases, which then delays the public’s right to have our environmental laws enforced. The Biden administration rightly repealed this rule.
7. Promote a discriminatory culture war agenda antithetical to American values.
The most extremist House Republicans have consistently failed to articulate legitimate policies to address the pressing issues facing our country. Instead, they resort to ‘culture war’ issues to poison debate on a myriad of issues. This bill prohibits funding for any effort to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace while also blocking funding for the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Latino. Additionally, it would only allow ‘official flags’ to fly at sites operated by the National Park Service, a subtle prohibition of the LGBTQ+ pride flag. These ridiculous, hate-filled policies have no place in our society and must be rejected like the rest of this bill.
Federal agencies like the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are still recovering from almost a decade of sequestration cuts. The cuts and extreme policies this bill contains would significantly hamper our ability to tackle the interrelated crises of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity. We urge Congress to reject any bill that contains these non-negotiable provisions and protect the communities that would feel their consequences the most.
As Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earthjustice, Raúl García leads a team of advocates that work with policymakers in Congress, federal agencies, and the White House to advance some of the most consequential policy issues around climate, environmental health, and biodiversity.
Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.